Putin continues his Syria victory lap

Ever since preempting President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in finding a potential resolution to the threat of a Syrian military intervention, Russian President Vladimir Putin has wasted no time in solidifying his position as a major player in the geopolitical system. The game entered an interesting new phase when The New York Times published an op-ed  by Putin himself, which set out in no uncertain terms that it was in the United States' best interest to back down from its self-provoked fight.

Addressing the American people as a whole, Putin wrote: "Recent events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies."

He went on to cite the extraordinary relationship between Russia and the United States, from its early alliance during the Second World War to the protracted, shadowy conflict of the Cold War. Putin argued that there is a possibility that the two nations could come together, but acknowledged that global geopolitical pressures are pushing the world to the brink of disaster. He specifically cited the tragic fate of the League of Nations, the United Nations' predecessor which failed primarily due to its members' inaction leading up to World War II. Only by recognizing "international laws" can the U.N. avoid a similar end.

Most intriguingly, Putin directly confronted the idea of American exceptionalism, which was expounded upon in President Obama's White House speech on Syria. The address, which took place on Tuesday night, cited America's unique status in the world as a reason to intervene. Putin rejected this concept, calling it "dangerous."

"It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."

Given Putin's – and Russia's – dubious and contradictory record on human rights, it remains to be seen how the American people will react. The White House responded by saying that Russia "now owns" its Syria resolution, which implies both a passing-of-the-buck and a hands-off approach from the Obama administration.

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